China opens its first auto museum

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The Auto Collections at the Imperial Palace Hotel & Casino is on the verge of making history as it prepares to ship antique cars on loan to the first-ever automobile museum in China, becoming the only non-native participant in this joint venture with the Chinese government.

On July 5, six vehicles, the first of 38 making the trip from Las Vegas, were loaded on an auto transporter and driven to Long Beach, Calif., where they and 37 additional cars from the Blackhawk Collection in Danville, Calif., will be loaded onto a cargo ship for the 24-day voyage to Shanghai.

The 75 vehicles, representing 23 different makes, will range from an 1886 Benz to a 1972 Alfa Romeo, with values between $20,000 and $1 million. They will be displayed in the Blackhawk Pavilion of the Shanghai Automobile Museum, scheduled to open in mid September. The museum will be part of an international automobile city development known as Autotown, which will include new car dealers.

"The Chinese are now buying newer cars, and the vehicles we are loaning the museum were selected because of their significance in the timeline of automobile development," said Don Williams, co-owner with Richie Clyne of The Auto Collections and Blackhawk. "The museum vehicles will give them an understanding of automobile history that will serve them well with future purchases."

The Chinese government built the more than 100,000-square-foot facility and will run and maintain the museum. The Auto Collections is footing the bill to transport all 75 vehicles to Shanghai, but in return, expects to benefit through exposure in the automobile marketplace.

The antique vehicles will be displayed for two years, after which they will be rotated between the United States and Shanghai, according to Rob Williams, The Auto Collections general manager and Don's son.

The elder Williams said he was approached by the Chinese government two years ago to open a museum so its citizens could see older cars.

"We've had offers before from other countries to open a museum, but this was the one that felt like a good fit," he noted.

The Auto Collections is located on the fifth level of the Imperial Palace and is open daily 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

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